Chicago's Brookfield Zoo welcomes rare pygmy hippopotamus

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Brookfield Zoo recently welcomed Banana - a female pygmy hippopotamus who will be turning three years old on 27 August.

As she continues to get acclimated to her new home, guests can see her either inside at the zoo's Pachyderm House or in her outdoor habitat on the building's west side.

The zoo has a long history of including the species in its animal collection, dating back to when the zoo first opened in 1934. Its most recent pygmy hippo, Adelle, was humanely euthanized in June 2021 due to problems associated with her remarkable age of 44.

Much smaller and rarer than the common river hippopotamus, the pygmy hippo weighs between 350 and 600 pounds and can reach a body length of up to about 5.75 feet. Although adapted for spending time in the water, it is less aquatic than its larger relative. Hippos secrete a white or pinkish substance called "blood sweat" from their pores that provides a protective coat like sunscreen on their skin.

The pygmy hippo, whose closest living relative is the whale, is listed as endangered on the IUCN's (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List of Threatened Species.

Found in the interior forests of West Africa's Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the population is declining mainly due to deforestation of its habitat as well as an increase in development associated with mining.

In addition, due to the pygmy hippo's range becoming more fragmented, hunters are posing an additional threat to the remaining population, which is estimated to be between 2,000 to 3,000 individuals.

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